Q&A with Kim Rendfeld
1. Please describe The Cross and the Dragon for our readers.
I’ll use the blurb on the back of the book:
A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.
Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.
Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.
Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?
Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne’s reign.
2. How much of your novel is based on actual events?
The background against which the story is set is historical. The wars are real, and I didn’t make up King Charles’s complicated personal life. At the beginning of the book, he is age 25, twice divorced, married to wife No. 3, and about to do battle with an ex-father-in-law, the king of Lombardy.
But I took liberties. I am, after all, a novelist, not a scholar. Any portrayal of Roland (Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon) is going to be fictitious. The only historical mention of him is part of a sentence in Einhard’s biography of Charles. So, Alda, who shares the same name as the love interest in The Song of Roland, also is a product of my imagination as is Ganelon. The villain in the poem likely was named after a bishop accused of betraying one of Charlemagne’s grandsons.
3. While researching this novel, did you uncover any unusual/interesting facts?
Oh yes, more than the space of an interview permits. Many interesting facts I’ve come across are featured in my blog, Outtakes [http://kimrendfeld.wordpress.com/], but I’ll highlight two here.
King Charles’s personal life rivals a soap opera. He was married five times and had four recognized mistresses after his last wife’s death. His first cousin, the duke of Bavaria, was married to the daughter of the Lombard king (yes, Charles’s ex-father-in-law), and Charles later confiscated the duke’s lands. His eldest son tried to overthrow him, perhaps believing he was being cheated out of his inheritance. Everything Charles did was political, from whether and whom to marry to his choice of clothes (see my post on Unusual Historicals [http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2012/07/fashionable-people-what-charlemagnes.html] for more on the latter).
The other interesting fact I’ll point out is lighthearted. One of the first things I was surprised to learn was that medieval people bathed! In fact, not taking a bath was a form of penance. The princes bathed once a week, and they probably would have done so more often if it wasn’t such a hassle (think servants hauling water to tubs, more servants building fires). The frequency is not as often as most modern-day Americans’ habits, but it was a lot more than I expected.
4. Describe Alda in three words.
Clever. Compassionate. Courageous.
5. What are you working on?
I’m polishing the manuscript for my second novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, set in the same time period. This is a draft of the blurb:
Can a mother’s love triumph over war?
Charlemagne’s 772 battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her husband died in combat. Her faith lies in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. And the relatives obligated to defend her and her family sold them into slavery, stealing their farm.
Taken in Francia, Leova will stop at nothing to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her honor and her safety. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.
Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He has saved Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon Christian and offered to be Sunwynn’s champion—and he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.
6. What's your favorite fairy tale?
“Beauty and the Beast.”
7. What are you reading?
Right now, I’m enjoying A Thing Done by fellow Fireship Press author Tinney Sue Heath. It’s about a jester who gets caught up in the feuds among the nobles in 13th century Florence. A prank he was ordered to do snowballs into a vendetta. This is based on a true story, one Tinney re-created from footnotes.
8. Favorite type of cookie?
9. Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.
10. Favorite holiday movie?
It’s a Wonderful Life, even with the inherent sexism of the times. It speaks to the universal truth that we all are important and that even in our ordinary lives, what we do matters.
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